Swans and Seagulls trophy wins gave Painter happy memories of Withdean

WHEN the Championship club you play for brings in an established Premier League player with 35 England caps to his name, chances are you’ll realise quite quickly your playing time is going to be limited.

Thus was the situation facing Marcos Painter after he had previously been the established left back in Gus Poyet’s Brighton side.

Born in Solihull on 17 August 1986, Painter progressed through the academy at Birmingham City and, in 2005, made it through to the first team group under manager Steve Bruce. He made five Premier League appearances and cup games took his tally to nine in his first full season.

It was a similar pattern at the start of the 2006-07 season and, after he’d played only two games by November, Kenny Jackett took him on loan at then League One Swansea City. He played 22 games and two as a sub by the end of a season which saw Swansea just miss out on the play-off places.

Painter’s loan was made permanent in January 2007 and he went on to establish himself as the Swans’ first choice left back, playing 31 games as they romped to the League One Championship under Roberto Martinez in the 2007-08 season.

A former Blue, and briefly a Brighton player, Steve Claridge, wearing his pundit’s hat for The Guardian in October 2007, did a detailed analysis of a player who he said Steve Bruce had “raved about” in terms of his attitude.

“Painter is not overly blessed with natural ability,” said Claridge. “When he was isolated in the final third, one-on-one with an opponent, he struggled to beat him while he must have forgotten to pack his shampoo, so reluctant was he to head the ball.

“In the main, though, he defended well, rarely getting exposed and still finding the time to overlap his winger

“Painter, a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international, might not boast great skill but I like players who think about the game and how best to use the attributes they have, even if they are more limited than others. Making it back to the Premier League, however, might be a step too far.”

Painter continued in the left back spot in Swansea’s Championship side but in October 2008 he sustained a cruciate knee ligament injury to his right knee in a 3-0 win over Southampton, and he was sidelined for the rest of the season.

He returned to first team action for the 2009-10 season but Martinez had departed for Wigan and his successor Paulo Sousa only gave Painter six starts. In January 2010, Brighton stepped in and took him on loan until the end of the season.

He was one of three signings made by Poyet on the same day (Arsenal defender Gavin Hoyte on loan and winger Seb Carole returning were the others) and he wasn’t fazed by Withdean because he’d got happy memories of the place.

“The last time I was there we won the league and were presented with the League One trophy,” he recalled. “I’ve missed a lot of football with a cruciate injury so I’m keen to play as much as I can. Roberto Martinez recommended me but the manager has said there is no extra pressure on me.”

When his two-year deal with Swansea expired in July 2010, he joined Albion permanently on a two-year contract.

Painter was ever-present at left back in the promotion winning team of 2010-11, his total of 54 league and cup appearances being the highest of any in the squad.

Unfortunately, a recurring hamstring injury meant he missed three months of the 2011-12 season, Albion’s first in the Championship, and first at the Amex.

Painter managed 22 appearances but Joe Mattock joined on-loan in January 2012 and occupied the left back berth until the end of the season. Prior to that, Romain Vincelot and Gus Poyet’s assistant Mauricio Taricco had slotted in at left back.

Ahead of the 2012-13 season, there was much excitement when Poyet unveiled the signing of Wayne Bridge on a season-long loan from Manchester City.

Painter revealed his feelings in an interview published on BBC Sport when he had a brief return to the first team to replace the injured Bridge.

“Maybe it’s had a good effect on me, not being the number one and having to up my game,” he said. “The manager said to me at the start of the season that Wayne would play but I had to be there to step in.

“He’s been honest and said ‘If you deserve to play, you’ll play’. Wayne will play if he is fit and I accept that. It’s still not a nice feeling but let’s be realistic; he has Premier League and international quality.”

Painter admitted that, on occasions, it was difficult to come to terms with not playing regularly. “It’s horrible,” he said. “That’s one thing when your family play a big part and try and keep your head up.

“When you’re not travelling [to away games] and training with the reserves it’s difficult. You have to try and stay as professional as possible.

“You want to play football or be involved. No player likes to be sitting at home or just trying to keep fit.”

During that final season as an Albion player, Painter had a brief loan spell along the coast at Bournemouth and after he was released by Brighton, he joined Portsmouth in the summer of 2013.

Their manager at the time, Guy Whittingham, told the club website: “Marcos is an experienced player, who has competed at a high level. He’s a good out-and-out defender and we’re pleased he’s come here.

“I think he was impressed with the vision of what we want to achieve here, while we were impressed with his attitude.” Painter said: “I’m used to life down on the south coast and I’m excited to be joining a great club like Pompey, who have such a fantastic fanbase.

“This club is an attractive proposition whatever league they’re in. There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s up to the players to take Pompey back up.

“I enjoy defending and hopefully I’ll be able to use my experience to help the team do well this season.” After his debut resulted in a win over Morecambe, Painter told the club website: “A 3-0 home win and a clean sheet in my first game – it couldn’t have started any better really.

“We moved the ball quickly and penetrated from the wide areas. We’ve got a lot of quality up front and caused them problems.

“The gaffer said that he brought me in to help the side keep clean sheets and we did our job at both ends.”

But he fell out of favour with Whittingham and his injury issues returned before Whittingham’s replacement in the hotseat, former Albion forward Richie Barker, arrived at Fratton Park and restored Painter to the first team. However, he made just 18 appearances for Pompey between August 2013 and February 2014.

Since July 2015, he has been back at his first club, Birmingham, working as an academy coach; this season working with the under 12s group.

When Albion visited St Andrew’s on 5 April 2016, I recall Painter being interviewed pitchside during the half-time break, when he reminisced about his time with the Seagulls.

 

Pictures from my scrapbook show a Simon Dack action picture of Painter from The Argus; a back page headline from The Argus; in the matchday programme, and Joe Pepler’s shot of Painter in Pompey colours (from The News, Portsmouth).

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